First aid kit for trekking and hiking: contents and recommendations
When you’re out trekking or hiking in the mountains, things don’t always go as planned and you or someone in your group might get injured. To make sure you’re prepared for the different surprises that can come your way out on the trail, having a first aid kit with you is essential.
But what is a first aid kit and what should it include? You’ll find the answer to that question and many more by reading this article.
Why is it so important to have a first aid kit for hiking?
A first aid kit is a set of tools, materials and medications that, in an emergency, can help someone who has been injured or who suddenly isn’t feeling well. While in the mountains, first aid kits take on even more importance and value because, while hiking, we are exposed to more risks and we often find ourselves in isolated areas far from towns and the services they provide.
There are countless risks involved in hiking, especially when it comes to injuries and accidents. It’s easy to slip, fall or trip when walking on uneven paths or tackling steep ascents or descents, and rocks and trees aren’t exactly comfortable things to land on! Other risks are linked to environmental factors, such as landslides and avalanches, and even cold temperatures and the dark can be dangerous. Animals can also harm hikers and mountaineers, from small insects like ticks to larger mammals like wild boar. Last but not least, don’t underestimate the risk of getting lost—for more on that, we’ve written an article dedicated to GPS devices and apps designed especially for trekking (GPS for Hiking: what type to use and how).
Often the risks of hiking are ignored or downplayed. After all, it’s easy to think that nothing will go wrong. Yet it’s always a good idea to bring a first aid kit on every hike so that you’re prepared no matter what happens. It’s better to have a first aid kit and not use it than need a kit and not have one!
First aid kits: store-bought or DIY?
Once you’ve realised the importance of having a first aid kit with you, it’s best to see what types of emergency medical kits exist and which is the right one for you. First aid kits can be divided into two categories: store-bought and DIY.
Store-bought first aid kits can be found online or in specialty shops; they come in different sizes and contain everything required to meet essential medical needs. Basic first aid kits will include plasters, gauze dressings, bandages, tweezers and medical tape, while more comprehensive kits will contain other materials that are good to have in case of an emergency, such as scissors, cleansing wipes/antiseptic cream, a space blanket, and medicines. The advantage of a store-bought kit is the price, which is often quite affordable for a product that is ready to use and doesn’t need to be assembled by the buyer. However, the biggest drawback of this product is that it is composed of standard medical materials, which may not meet all the needs of hikers, or it may not be suitable for all the accidents and injuries that can happen when trekking. Usually, these kits can be used to treat cuts, scratches and mild pain.
One alternative is a do-it-yourself first aid kit, which you can create with the products you want, according to your needs and the type of excursion you’re planning. For example, you might decide to pack prescription drugs or medications you regularly take, or products that treat insect bites or stings, or even splints, cotton wool, gloves and plasters for blisters, creating a custom kit. This solution is surely preferable to a generic, store-bought kit as it will ensure that your emergency supplies are tailored to your requirements and cover a broader range of problems that can arise when trekking.
Whether you decide to buy a complete kit or assemble one of your own, there are products that are ‘absolute musts’ in any first aid kit for trekking and hiking. We’ll take a closer look at what they are in the following section.
What to put in your first aid kit for trekking?
If you decide to assemble your emergency medical kit on your own, remember that there is no ideal size or weight for the case. For that matter, it’s best to bring everything you’ll need on the trail with you, without excluding potentially useful materials just because they take up space.
In terms of the case itself, the best solution is to get a soft, waterproof container, one that can easily be packed in a rucksack and which protects the supplies inside if it rains or snows.
Regarding the contents of the kit, it’s possible to divide the materials into different categories depending on the various needs that may arise during a trek.
Cuts, scrapes and splinters
To dress cuts and scratches safely and securely, you’ll need bandages, gauze and plasters, while you’ll want to use a pair of tweezers to remove splinters or thorns. Don’t forget to disinfect any wounds to avoid infections.
- Cotton wool
- Adhesive medical tape
- Sterile gauze
- Sterile bandages
- Disinfectant/antiseptic cream
- Emergency tourniquets
- Disposable sterile gloves
- Plasters for blisters
Bumps and bruises
To treat impact wounds, it’s useful to have dry ice and an anti-inflammatory gel or cream, which should only be used if the skin hasn’t been scratched or punctured.
- Instant cold compress
- Anti-inflammatory gel or cream
If you find yourself out in the extreme cold, you may need a space blanket so as not to lose too much body heat. Vice-versa, if you are out hiking under the hot sun, you probably could use some sunblock.
- Space/emergency blanket
- Suntan lotion
- Ointment for burns/after-sun lotion
In addition to being an annoyance, some insects can even be harmful to humans. Always be sure to bring insect repellent so that your hike will be pleasant and bite-free.
- Mosquito repellent
- Tick repellent
- Antihistamine lotion to use if bitten/stung by an insect
Illness and allergies
In case you or someone in your group suddenly feels unwell or has an allergy attack, be sure to pack symptom-relieving medication that will make it possible to complete the hike safely.
- Eye drops
- Diarrheal medications
- Nausea medications
- Fever/inflammation reducing drugs
- Prescription drugs (e.g., antibiotics)
Organising and replacing items in your kit
One aspect that is often forgotten about in relation to first aid kits, especially the store-bought kind, is that you need to periodically assess and swap out the materials they contain. Be sure to double-check the expiry date of the medicines and drugs in your kit and make sure that all other materials are undamaged, replacing anything that looks old or altered in any way.
If you happen to use plasters or bandages while out hiking, remember to return them or replace them in your first aid kit once you get home, otherwise you won’t have any on your next excursion.
First aid kits should always be placed within your rucksack in a position that is easy to access. The ideal place in which to keep your emergency medical kit is an outer pocket on your backpack, or an inner pocket that’s easily within reach. It’s best to avoid placing the kit in the bottom of the main compartment of your rucksack, as that would mean emptying all its contents just to get to plasters, medicines and other materials.
If you decide to make your own first aid kit, we recommend only bringing a few of each item rather than overloading your bag with redundant emergency materials. For example, you don’t need an entire box of plasters, you just need one or two of each type.
Generally speaking, assembling your own first aid kit can make it easier to use in case of an emergency, because you’ll already know where you’ve put the materials you need within the carrying case.
A few more words of advice
Safety in the mountains is also determined by your hiking footwear, which should be comfortable, protective and provide excellent stability, even on rugged terrain. The Garmont hiking boot that best embodies these qualities? The TOWER 2.0 GTX®.